Three Northern California House Democrats have signed onto a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to seek Congressional authorization for any military strike against Syria.
Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, are among 18 Democrats and 98 Republicans who’ve signed onto the letter drafted and circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.
“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter says. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”
And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama today urging the president to “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.”
Two Bay Area House members will be on the conference committee charged with completing a federal budget deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, appointed all Democrats from the House Budget Committee as conferees; that includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Pelosi also called out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for having not appointed any Republican conferees, even though the U.S. Senate passed a budget bill 96 days ago.
“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer for Republicans to act on a reasonable, responsible budget, and neither should we,” she said. “Democrats have put our ideas on the table time and again, with a budget proposal to create jobs, promote growth, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and bring down the deficit in a balanced way.”
Boehner at a news conference this morning said the nation’s 1.8 percent economic growth in the year’s first quarter isn’t enough. “That’s why Republicans are continuing to listen to the American people, and offering a real jobs plan for American families and small businesses,” he said. “Our jobs plan can bring us out of this ‘new normal’ and deliver sustained economic growth, and expand opportunity for all Americans.”
“We continue to have these pep rallies for the oil and gas industry while real problems are simply, for some reason, off the table. We don’t even have a conference committee so we can move forward and try to negotiate a federal budget, but we’re here to have a pep rally for the oil and gas industry,” Huffman said at the hearing. “We’ve got student loan interest rates about to double in less than a week, but we’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about any number of things, like the sequester and the people that are actually suffering. We’re here to talk about folks who are experiencing record profits. There are real problems that we need to be solving, and we need to be working together.”
Democrats took to the House floor today to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., and to try to jump-start the seemingly moribund effort to get a background-check bill through Congress.
The Senate rejected the bill in April, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, doesn’t seem likely to bring it to a vote. That didn’t stop Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, from trying to shame him into it today.
And from Rep. Mike Thomspon, D-Napa, who has been House Democrats’ point man on gun violence issues:
The House voted 229-195 today to repeal the “Obamacare” federal health care reforms enacted in 2010 – the 37th time that Republicans have tried to repeal or eliminate funding for the law.
The only two Democrats to vote for H.R. 45 were Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, both of whom represent districts with heavy numbers of Republican voters yet are deemed “lean Democratic” – not “toss up” – by the Cook Political Report. No Republicans opposed the bill.
Like its predecessors, this effort is DOA in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spoke in defense of the vote:
“Today the House is voting to repeal the president’s health care law because it’s increasing the cost of health insurance, reducing access to care, and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers. This is the third full repeal vote that we’ve had in the last three years, and some critics have suggested it’s a waste of time.
“Well, while our goal is to repeal all of ObamaCare, I would remind you that the president has signed into law seven different bills that repealed or defunded parts of that law. Is it enough? No. Full repeal is needed to keep this law from doing more damage to our economy and raising health care costs.
“But some progress has been made, and Republicans will continue to work to scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms that lower costs and protect jobs. Because jobs is what this is all about.”
Northern California’s House Democrats were – shocker! – having none of it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, smack-talked the vote at her weekly news conference:
“Here we are, 134 days into the 113th Congress, without one vote on a jobs bill. Fifty-four days after the Senate passed its budget, we still haven’t moved forward to the budget process with this do nothing agenda that does not reflect the priorities of the American people. It is an agenda that only the Republicans are interested in pursuing. So, you see a series of subterfuges, job evasions. Today’s job evasion is that the Republicans have decided to vote on the Patient’s Rights Repeal Act, their 37th attempt to repeal our country’s landmark reform bill. That’s 37 votes, 43 days, $52 million – $52.4 million – on an obvious evasion of our responsibility to work on the priorities of the American people.
“Not only is this a clear waste of time, and of taxpayer dollars, it is a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable, quality health care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called it “a shameful waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”
“Instead of spending more than $50 million to repeal a law that is saving lives and money, we should be working to improve our healthcare system and expand on the benefits the law provides,” Thompson said. “It’s time to put these political games aside. By building on the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, we can make sure every American can afford to go to the doctor. And that’s what matters.”
And Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, said Americans “want Congress to focus on jobs, not waste time and taxpayer money voting 37 times to take away patient protections from middle class families.
“The Supreme Court has ruled, and ACA is now law. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the law I would have proposed because it doesn’t do enough to address the cost of care, but we don’t want to go back to a time when children faced discrimination due to pre-existing conditions, when students and young adults were kicked off their parents’ insurance, and when women had to pay more for insurance than men just because of their gender,” he said. “Now we need to move past partisan bickering and start working on ways we can drive healthcare costs down. For years, we’ve been paying more and more for healthcare, and getting less and less. As a doctor and former Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I know there are many places we can find savings.”
Jeez, I take one day off (to go to an awesome concert, at least) and THAT’S when the IRS gets busted for targeting conservative groups – prime blog fodder if I ever saw it. Sorry for the delay, readers.
In case you missed it, the IRS apologized Friday for targeting groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, admitting it had improperly singled out conservative applications for tax-exempt status for special scrutiny. The story only got uglier over the weekend, with the Associated Press and Reuters reporting Saturday that senior IRS officials knew of this as early as 2011.
“The admission by the Obama administration that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political opponents echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th-century American history. Today, we are left with serious questions: who is ultimately responsible for this travesty? What actions will the Obama administration take to hold them accountable? And have other federal agencies used government powers to attack Americans for partisan reasons? House Republicans have made oversight of federal agencies a top priority on behalf of the American people, and I applaud the work that members such as Charles Boustany, Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan have done to bring this issue to light. I also strongly support Sen. McConnell’s call for a transparent, government-wide review to ensure similar practices are not happening elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy.”
“If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous, and there’s no place for it,” President Obama told reporters today, according to the Washington Post. “And they have to be held fully accountable.”
And here’s what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said today:
“While we look forward to reviewing the Inspector General’s report this week, it is clear that the actions taken by some at the IRS must be condemned. Those who engaged in this behavior were wrong and must be held accountable for their actions. Regardless of political affiliation or bias, there is no place for this type of activity by the IRS or its employees.
“There needs to be more clarity in the law regarding the activities of tax exempt organizations along with greater disclosure and transparency. We must overturn Citizens United, which has exacerbated the challenges posed by some of these so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations. And we must take appropriate action, without any delay or hesitation, to ensure that the IRS remains an impartial agency for America’s taxpayers and our nation’s families and businesses.”
Oakland Police said that although they have no reason to believe there’s any threat here, they’re keeping officers apprised of the situation in Boston and will have a more visible presence at tonight’s Oakland A’s and Golden State Warriors games in collaboration with BART Police, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies.
Elected officials are weighing in, too.
From President Barack Obama’s live press briefing at the White House:
“We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake – we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.
“Today is a holiday in Massachusetts – Patriots’ Day. It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it’s a day that draws the world to Boston’s streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I’m supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.”
“Words cannot begin to express our sorrow for the families who are grieving so suddenly right now. The House of Representatives offers its prayers to the victims and the city of Boston. We also give thanks for the professionals and Good Samaritans who prevented further loss of life. This is a terrible day for all Americans, but we will carry on in the American spirit, and come together with grace and strength.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston today and with the families of all of the victims of this brutal attack. We pray for the health and recovery of those injured, for the witnesses to the explosions, and for the first responders who arrived on the scene to tend to the wounded and secure the area.
“Words are inadequate to console the loved ones of those lost at the Boston Marathon. But we will do what we can to care for them. We will ensure that justice will be done.
“Members of Congress stand ready to assist our partners in Boston and Massachusetts as they respond to this unspeakable tragedy. The entire nation will stand as a source of support and comfort to this community in the days to come.”
From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (who is California’s acting governor during Gov. Jerry Brown’s ongoing trip to China):
Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by the tragic events in Boston today and our hearts go out to the victims’ families and their communities. There’s no indication of any threats to California or our local communities at this time. However, these events are a reminder to remain vigilant and always report anything unusual to your local law enforcement agency.
“House Republicans passed a balanced budget that will help foster a healthier economy and to help create jobs. Unfortunately, the president’s budget never comes to balance. Every family has to balance its budget, Washington should as well.
“The American people know you can’t continue to spend money that you don’t have. The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years. Now think about this, you can’t continue to go on like this. That’s why we came forward with a plan that will balance the budget over the next 10 years. We believe strongly that it is time for Washington to deal with its spending problem.
“And while the president has backtracked on some of his entitlement reforms that were in conversations that we had a year and a half ago, he does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms that he has outlined in his budget. But I would hope that he would not hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes. Listen, why don’t we do what we can agree to do? Why don’t we find the common ground that we do have and move on that?
“The president got his tax hikes in January, we don’t need to be raising taxes on the American people. So I’m hopeful in the coming weeks we’ll have an opportunity, through the budget process, to come to some agreement.”
“The President’s budget makes critical investments in our economy and in job creation. I’m particularly pleased to see the investments in mental health, HIV/AIDS, and education, including promise neighborhoods, and universal pre-K. Given my efforts to repeal the Tiahrt amendments, I’m also very pleased to see that this budget excludes pieces of that policy rider which inhibits law enforcement’s abilities to track illegal guns and prevent gun violence. Unfortunately, this budget also includes chained CPI, a benefit cut to Social Security which I strongly oppose.”
From U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee:
“What a disappointment this budget is. Not only is it two months late, but the President’s budget is a rehash of the same tax hikes, spending increases and deceptive budget gimmicks that have already been rejected by Democrats and Republicans alike. What’s more, it barely makes a dent in our sky-high debt, while not doing enough to fundamentally reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Any reasonable person understands that our $17 trillion debt – which represents a burden of over $55,000 for every man, woman, and child in America – is a crisis that demands addressing.”
“Falsely claiming $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction, as the President proposes, isn’t the kind of leadership the people of Utah and America deserve. Confronting our debt crisis with such an unbalanced set of massive tax increases, as the President does in his budget, will only result in less economic opportunity for middle-class families and small businesses, and more government spending from Washington. After last week’s dismal job numbers where the labor force dipped by a half-a-million workers and the labor force participation rate fell to the lowest since the early years of the Carter Administration, we need policies that grow our economy, the paychecks of the American people, and opportunities for our children and grandchildren – not grow our government as the President proposes in his budget.”
“President Obama has put forth a budget proposal that makes investments to grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class while continuing to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.
“The President has made it clear that this proposal is in furtherance of his efforts to achieve compromise with Republicans and demonstrates that he is willing to make tough decisions to reduce the deficit, but only in the context of a bold and balanced agreement that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share and includes initiatives that spur economic growth by creating jobs.
“Now that the House and Senate have acted on their own budget proposals, it is time for Speaker Boehner to appoint budget conferees to avoid any further delay. The American people want their elected representatives in Washington to work together to tackle the difficult decisions facing our nation. We must lift the sequester and find common ground to grow our economy, put people to work, and build a strong, thriving middle class.”
“The report today details the harm that these automatic cuts pose to our fragile economy and to the safety and security of families here in California. There is no need for these painful and indiscriminate cuts. That is why I have joined with my colleagues to call on the House Republican leadership to do what is right for our nation by averting these damaging and mindless spending cuts.
“With every passing day, thousands of jobs are at risk, the security of poor, working poor, and middle class families hang in the balance. Our nation’s economy cannot afford any further uncertainty, obstruction, and delay. Too much is at stake.”
“We are witnessing the result of an abject failure in leadership by Republican Speaker Boehner and his Tea Party team in Washington. Let’s not forget, they brought us to this point by fabricating a financial crisis and refusing to raise the debt ceiling in 2011, which resulted in the first U.S. credit downgrade in our history. Now, by refusing to ask the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay a little more and by blocking any alternative to the sequester, they are bringing down a meat cleaver on American jobs and the economy.
“They’ve wasted months by not coming to the table with balanced plan to reduce the deficit and grow the economy while avoiding these indiscriminate cuts. Congressional Republicans would rather gamble — again — on inaction and blame the President than do what’s right for our economy, our country’s safety and the security of working and middle class families. This is not leadership befitting the party that controls the U.S. House of Representatives. We can and should pass a balanced approach to reduce the deficit and grow the economy this week rather than create another avoidable crisis that will hurt millions of families across the country.”
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had this to say at a news conference today:
“You know, the president proposed the sequester, yet he’s far more interested in holding campaign rallies than he is in urging his Senate Democrats to actually pass a plan.
“Listen, we know there are smarter ways to cut spending and to continue to grow our economy. That’s why Republicans have acted twice, as Cathy said, to replace the sequester with what we would argue are smarter cuts.
“Listen, the president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester. Well, Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington.
“Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problems. The House has acted twice, we shouldn’t have to act a third time before the Senate begins to do their work.”
UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, weighed in with these remarks on the House floor today:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my strong disappointment that the House Republican Leadership is committing such legislative malpractice by failing to do anything about the automatic spending cuts that will happen this Friday.
“Here we are, on the brink of another economic crisis manufactured by Washington. And, just as before, this crisis will have real consequences, to real people.
“In my district alone, schools will lose $11 million in federal funding. California will be losing $87.6 million in funding for primary and secondary schools. That means fewer students learning and more teachers out of work.
“There’s a rational way to approach balancing the people’s budget, and this is not it. And, we can cut foolish spending without foolishly cutting spending.
“H.R. 699, of which I’m a cosponsor, would replace this method of budgeting with a balanced approach. It would include additional revenue from multimillionaires and smart cuts to reduce unnecessary spending.
“We may not agree on the right way to cut spending, but almost everyone agrees using broad, indiscriminate cuts is the wrong way to cut spending. Let’s come together to pass legislation to avert these cuts.”
I applaud the President’s talk tonight regarding jobs and technology. We must ensure the resilience of the American worker, and the adaptability and innovation inherent in our economy, to keep us at the forefront of global competitiveness.
This is the Silicon Valley way of life and business, where the manufacturing sector employs 1 in 5 workers (more than twice the national average), where breakthrough ideas are cultivated, and where the world’s most successful visionaries and businesses call home.
If we renew our national commitment to winning the manufacturing jobs of the future, bringing Silicon Valley sense to Washington, and employ strategies that play to our nation’s natural strengths, we should see a new golden age of American manufacturing.
That is exactly why my legislative platform, introduced this week, will reinvigorate a critical component of our national economy by focusing on three components: Next-generation technologies, startups and small manufacturers, and re-shoring production lines from overseas.
• The Market Based Manufacturing Incentives Act empowers an apolitical commission of private-sector experts to designate the next generation of disruptive, market-changing technologies.
• The Scaling up Manufacturing Act, endorsed by the American Small Manufacturers Coalition, the American Chemical Society, and Silicon Valley’s own Applied Ventures, provides support to this nation’s entrepreneurs at the most critical stage of their business’s growth. This proposal stops offshoring before it ever starts, keeps our bourgeoning businesses here at home, and helps turns ideas into success stories.
• The Re-Shoring Bonus Deduction Act is a draft proposal aimed at promoting growth in domestic manufacturing among this nation’s most established and global enterprises. We should reward companies that bring jobs back to the United States and contribute to our nation’s economic growth by employing American workers.
Additionally, my STEM agenda for the 113th Congress supports Obama’s SOTU call for leadership in these fields. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics must be infused into our public school curriculum, emphasized within the clinical teaching preparation programs and applied into vibrant learning experiences in the classroom.
In order to keep Silicon Valley competitive and stocked with highly-skilled, creative workers, we must improve STEM education coordination on a national scale. For our nation to remain a leader in scientific advancement and technological innovation, this is what is required of us, nothing less. It is time to step up and STEM it.
“The state of our union is getting stronger, but we have more work to do. Whether it’s creating jobs, getting our fiscal house in order, fixing our broken immigration system, or putting policies in place that respect the Second Amendment while also reducing gun violence, our nation faces big challenges. We won’t overcome these challenges as Democrats versus Republicans – we must meet them together as Americans.
“We need to put people to work fixing our roads, bridges, overpasses and waterways while also building an economy that can compete long-term by investing in new industries like clean energy. To get our fiscal house in order, we need a balanced approach that focuses on job creation, makes sure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck, and reforms our tax code so everyone pays their fair share. We need to avoid manufactured crisis that do nothing but hurt our economy. And, we need a bipartisan, comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system.
“Finally, tonight President Obama once again called on Congress to pass legislation that will reduce gun violence. Last month the President acted by signing a series of executive actions that will have a meaningful impact on reducing gun violence. But as we know, the policies that would have the greatest impact require congressional action.
“Whether you’re an NRA member like Elvin Daniel, the guest I hosted at tonight’s State of the Union, a hunter and gun owner like me, or one of the millions of Americans who have never fired a gun, we can all agree that when thirty-plus people die every day from gun violence that it’s time for Congress act. My task force is already acting. Last week we released a comprehensive set of policy principles that both respect the Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding Americans and will prevent gun violence. We’re using these policy principles to develop and influence legislation in both the House and Senate and are working to get legislation based on these principles signed into law.
“But this can’t just be a Democratic effort. It’s time for our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to work with us and use the principles we developed to put laws in place that respect the rights of lawful Americans to own firearms and make our schools, neighborhoods, communities and country safer.
“As the 113th Congress moves forward, I will continue working to overcome the challenges we face. And I am confident that if we put the partisanship aside and work together then our nation has even better days ahead.”
President Obama today announced he has invited congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle to come to the White House next week to discuss how to handle the tax increases and spending cuts now scheduled to take effect automatically in January.
“The year 2013 should be the year we begin to solve our country’s debt problem through entitlement reform and a new tax code with fewer loopholes and lower rates. The president has an historic opportunity to lead both parties in forging an agreement that averts the fiscal cliff in a manner that ensures 2013 will be that year.
“The increased tax rates that would be allowed under the Senate-passed bill are part of the fiscal cliff that economists are warning us to avoid. Those increased tax rates will destroy jobs in America by hurting small businesses across the country. Republicans are eager to get to work on an agreement that averts the entire fiscal cliff. The House has passed legislation to accomplish this vital goal. We look forward to joining the president next week and working to forge an agreement that will do the same.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, responded:
“President Obama is exactly right: the American people voted on Tuesday for certainty for our economy and middle class families. Speaker Boehner and House Republicans can provide that certainty, and establish a sound basis for negotiations on comprehensive deficit reduction package, by taking up the Senate-passed bill to extend the middle income tax cuts. President Obama has his signing pen ready, and I am certain that, given the opportunity, Democrats in the House will vote to send the middle income tax cut to the President next week.
“President Obama reiterated today that we must work toward compromise to address our nation’s deficit, and we stand firmly on the side of a balanced approach. President Obama took this issue of tax fairness to the American people with great clarity, and the American people agreed with him. The wealthiest Americans must pay their fair share.
“The tax proposal that the President restated today is the right way to move forward, enabling us to start the conversation about a responsible, long-term deficit reduction plan. The President was clear in the campaign. The American people have spoken. Let’s sit down and get the job done. Every day we delay, adds to the uncertainty of the middle class. Let’s pass the Senate bill now and show the American people that people of goodwill can get the job done. We must.”